Courts approved for reopening

Posted 6/2/20

The Courts of Madison County were approved for reopening Monday in a letter from Presiding Judge Olen Underwood of the Second Administrative Judicial Region of Texas. According to County Judge Tony Leago, the tentative plan for the reopening is slated for June 10.

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Courts approved for reopening

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The Courts of Madison County were approved for reopening Monday in a letter from Presiding Judge Olen Underwood of the Second Administrative Judicial Region of Texas. According to County Judge Tony Leago, the tentative plan for the reopening is slated for June 10.

Leago submitted the county’s plan for reopening to District Court Judge Don Kraemer on May 22, before it was again submitted and approved by the Texas Supreme Court in a letter from Underwood Monday.

The submission, entitled ‘COVID-19 Operating Plan for the Courts of Madison County, Texas’ includes a number of stipulations the courts must follow and can be accessed in full on the county website.

“The state has encouraged counties to get their courts opened back up, but there is a process we have to go through,” said Leago in a phone interview Friday, before the plan was officially approved. “Tentatively, right now, we are looking at June 10. (Court proceedings) will be dramatically different than they have been in the past.”

Since they have not held proceedings since early March, the court will likely double the amount of cases they hear in order to expedite the process and make up the lost time. They will also only be allowed to host 10 defendants in the courtroom at a given time.

According to Leago, the county will likely begin to host proceedings two days a week, twice a month, opposed to the standard practice of just one day, twice a month, as they have done in the past.

Standard social distancing, hygiene and screening practices will also be required and glass patricians will be installed in all three courtrooms.

“Operating plans will remain in effect until updated guidance is issued from the (Office of Court Administration) indicating they are no longer required or upon the expiration of the provisions in the Twelfth Emergency Order, as amended or extended, requiring adherence to OCA Guidelines,” said Underwood’s Monday letter approving the reopening of the courts.

Included in the report was a notice to vulnerable population individuals, or those over the age of 65 and those with serious underlying health conditions, such as high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma and those whose immune systems are compromised by chemotherapy for cancer or other conditions requiring such therapy.

The notice stated that, except for specific legal requirements, members of the vulnerable population who are scheduled to appear in court will be accommodated by being given an opportunity to appear by teleconference, submit necessary information in written form, or by rescheduling their in-person hearing until a time after the COVID-19 crisis.

To read the county’s plan for reopening the courts in its entirety, visit www.co.madison.tx.us.

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